Subject: Arrived in Bangkok 🙂
Date: Mon, 13 Jun 2005
.Flying out of New York was an experience! I didn’t think I would ever actually leave the states. Losing my luggage right away was a bit unnerving! Then spending $200.00 additional dollars on a hotel room over night in New York City was an added expense I wasn’t planning on. Remind me to talk to our travel agent, he really messed up!
I am safely in Bangkok! It was an 18-hour flight, very nice, I slept most of it and watched 3 movies, got just a bit restless. There were two meals served with wine, no one sat next to me so I could curl up on two seats, a lifesaver, just a few babies crying <smile>.
Flying into Bangkok was neat, lots of red roofs. Its strange being somewhere where English is not the main language, quite an adjustment. I have showed my ticket and then they point. So I am waiting now for my flight to Delhi that leaves in about 2.5 hours.We flew over Canada, Iceland, Norway and such. We even flew over Delhi, which was when I was wishing I had a different flight. I think I have a 4-5 hour flight left.
The airport here is like one big mall, actually it reminds me of an outdoor flea market, only indoor. I don’t have any currency for Bangkok and I don’t think I will get any right now. Diana, you would love all the shopping. I am having a hard time just walking by it, <smile> but I know John and I will be back here for 5 days. Anyway the airport is not the place to shop.
Subject: In New Delhi in India 🙂
Date: Tue, 14 Jun 2005
We almost hit a cow! The taxi ride from the airport to the YMCA was quite an experience. I thought for sure I was dead! They have the cutest tiniest (is this a word?) cars and everyone is trying to drive on the same side at the same time. The horns are all blasting, and the smells of burnt grass, actually marijuana (that’s what it smells like <smile>)is in the air and there is this unbelievable haze that is all over the city.
The heat is almost unimaginable!! I think it was 110 yesterday, combined with the smells and the wild ride to the YMCA, I thought my stomach was going to give up the ghost!!
I pre-paid for the taxi, after standing in line and having all these Indian men push me out of the way. I was the only woman in the line, and of course no one was speaking English, it was 1 A.M., it was tough! Then one poor old soul had mercy on me and was kind enough to make sure I got a taxi. So into the taxi I went, with the help of 4 boys, who all wanted a tip. Okay, who do I tip and how much? No small bills of course, feeling very green and vulnerable at 1 A.M. I then get into the cab and have the ride of my life!!! <smile>.
Then the cow, this huge beautiful bull, just walks slowly across the street and brings traffic to a halt! In India, the cow is a very sacred animal. Well, then we get to the YMCA at 1:30 A.M., no lights on, not even streetlights outside, only a few police standing by the door. The cab driver was wonderful; he waited while I went in to see if this was indeed the place. Of course he didn’t speak a word of English. Thank goodness I had the address written down. I had called twice within two weeks of leaving the states to make sure they had my reservations. Guess what? No reservations were noted; they couldn’t find any record of me. I was almost in tears at that moment, and with 5 strange men standing around me. I pleaded my case and just asked for a room, they were wonderful and I got a room. The room was okay with air conditioning and a nice bed to sleep in.
Earlier, on my flight out of Bangkok I met this wonderful young woman from Alaska. She just finished med school and was meeting her boyfriend in India to tour for 3 months. We connected and sat next to each other on the plane and helped each other through the last leg of the flight journey. I felt totally out of place. I was the only blonde haired person out of over 400 people. Allison and I had a long discussion with two Indian men. They were very much disillusioned with the United States, and were definitely no fans of America or President Bush. Allison, being Native American, was taken into the fold. I, however, was not! So in a very crowded space, I was the center of a heated debate, with me actually not saying anything. It was VERY uncomfortable.
When we got off the plane Allison’s boyfriend was there to greet her and off they went. I was on my own in a world I could only have dreamed of. It was as strange and different, and yes frightening as it could be.
I know that you all have been praying for me. I made it safely to the hotel and they gave me a room. I have to admit I broke down and cried when I got into my room and really questioned why I was here, what was I doing? I slept a total of 2 hours, and then I got up and read about India. I went down for breakfast (toast and tea) and then decided to venture out on my own.
As I was standing by the door, in that ole Minnesota friendly hello, I met this amazing man from California. He happens to be a professor at Humboldt University. He taught Indian Religion at Harvard for 12 years too. Quite an amazing person! His wife had flown home a few days earlier than him and he was alone. We connected and spent the day shopping in the 110 temps and experiencing the sights, sounds and smells of India.
It is truly amazing, there is this beauty in the people and the colors are so vibrant, the flowers are in bloom and for the most part, people are smiling. God has been good to me. I know it is because I have all of you praying for my safety! I have already met two amazing people. I was pretty low last night and my spirits are lifted and I am ready to go on my journey.
I then met up with two of the students from the U of M and we are taking a bus tomorrow morning to the American Consulate, so for the next three days I will be with my group and I feel like I am acclimating a bit to the heat and the people. We truly spent the last 10 hours walking and absorbing India. I can’t wait until I am ready to leave India and I can load up on the amazing clothes and jewelry!
I bought two really cool outfits and wore one tonight to dinner with flowers in my hair. I felt bewitched <smile> and the smell of the Jasmine in my hair was very intoxicating!
Subject: India, day 4…
Date: Thu, 16 Jun 2005
Today I took a rickshaw for about 5 hours and toured Delhi. I paid the Driver a set amount only to lose him part way through the day due to a dead Rickshaw. Considering that it was over 115 today, if I were a motor I would have died too! I can’t believe that I actually rode around in it all day in the heat <smile>. The heat must not be affecting me as much as I thought (yeah right, I came back to my room and stripped down to nothing and fell on the bed and died for an hour). I would have him stop at the various sights which included: India’s Gate, President Palace, a few famous tombs such as Humayuns Tomb, Safdaijang’s tomb, we also stopped at Indira Gandhi memorial museum, and the Bahdi Temple. I actually opened my eyes at times during the ride <smile>, let me tell you, it is the ride of a life time! I saw quite a few accidents, it seems there are no boundaries or rules on the road, I’m sure there are, I just haven’t figured them out yet!
Indria Gandhi was India’s first woman prime minister, what an amazing person. We think of the Indian women as oppressed, but sometimes it seems that a woman is more respected in the work place than in the home. One of her quotes that struck me was given at her convocation: “A tree must have roots. Though the roots go deep into the ground, the tree itself grows up into the sky towards the sun. So must we turn our faces and our steps towards the future though our roots remain in the past.” That sure gives us food to chew on doesn’t it?
At the Bhadi (Lotus) Temple we had to take our shoes off. The walkway was so hot that I burned the bottom of my feet. I also stood out like a sore thumb everywhere I went. Although today was fun in the sense that there were many young people around, like 10 to 15 years old. They would come up to me and ask me questions about where I was from, what the weather was like, and what kind of music and movies I watched. It was so wonderful to see the shy smiles and the curiosity get the better of them as they approached me. A few even wanted my autograph! Just think, I am famous <smile>! I can tell you one thing, the Indian people are absolutely beautiful! Their dark skin and the vibrant colors that they wear take your breath away! The babies are the cutest ever!
Of course there are the children who run up to you everywhere you are and beg for money and their clothes aren’t so vibrant, and their smiles are more reserved, and it’s those kids whose faces I will fall asleep tonight thinking about.Oh, and did I tell you that the Indian people do not sweat! Here I am, totally wilted and with a wet butt every time I get out of the Rickshaw and they are absolutely together and cool looking; maybe by the end of my trip I will acquire such grace at which to mind the heat!
My God is an awesome God. There is such beauty in this world. I am thankful for all the special moments in my life, for all the interactions with each person I meet. Every morning I have been met with this wonderful smile of the toothless doorman. I think he has a crush on me <smile>. Its so much fun to come down the stairs and see his face light up with a big smile, he makes my day!
I have been lucky so far and haven’t gotten the squirts. I’m just waiting for them. I figure with my luck, they will appear as I am taking my trek up the mountain on Sat. <smile>. I wonder if there will be trees to go to the bathroom near, or will I need to just squat at the rode side?! Ah well, it will be an adventure!
I miss you all very much; just know my thoughts and prayers are with all of you. I thank God every day for you and keep safe, its a very long way home.
Subject: 5th day in India…I think!!
Date: Fri, 17 Jun 2005
Good day to all of you!
Today was really hot again!! We walked to the market place. It is very draining when all the vendors come up to you and beg you to buy their wares. I find it very exhausting, and, to be honest, very frustrating. It is hard to walk down the street and most everyone you meet wants something. I think I am just a bit tired tonight! I have been waiting for 2 hours to get on the Internet and I just want to go to bed! We are leaving tomorrow morning for the Himalayan Mountains and we will be out of contact until Wed. of next week. If there is an emergency, please still try my phone, or get in touch with John, and email me. I will try to check in before that if possible!
This afternoon I took a rickshaw to the JNU University in Delhi. I had my first interview with a professor of Community Health. It was very inspiring. She requested to meet with me again the end of July so she can hear about my research project and what results I got. She encouraged me to do my research in Northern India instead of the south, stating that the north is more representative of India. She teaches doctors and Scientists in the maternal child health area. She thought a friend of hers had referred me to her, that is why she responded to my email (I was not referred, it was out of the cold that I emailed her). So it was chance, so to speak, that she actually met with me! We connected and it was great!! We both had tears in our eyes during our discussion. She is very passionate about healthcare for women and children. She did her PhD dissertation on rural women’s healthcare, and history of it, so we are right in tune with each other. She may just take my data and fly with it! I might have to come back to India to finish my doctorate!
The description of the healthcare system was very interesting. It even sounds good and that it could possibly work, however, as is generally the case, what looks good on paper, doesn’t always work.
Each community of approximately 30,000 people are serviced by a primary Healthcare center with 2 physicians (general practitioners) at the center. Under the primary healthcare center are sub centers that are set up in certain areas that service about 3-4,000 people. The staff at the sub centers are guides with minimal education. There is a guide for nutrition, one for immunizations and medication administration, one is a women health worker who is taken from the village as a volunteer to work for her village, and one is an auxiliary nurse or midwife who assists with deliveries. These guides are called multipurpose workers trained in basic needs only.
As you can see, first line of defense is the sub center, with minimal experienced staff, then it is the primary healthcare center, which is terribly understaffed with 1 or 2 doctors and then you have the specialists that the doctors refer clients to if they are unable to assist them. The government subsidizes all this. And while it sounds like it might work, the problem is actually getting people to do the jobs. It is either volunteering or very cheap labor. Another problem is if the guide is from the village, because of the caste system, they may not be able to enter into some of the homes, so this makes it impossible to actually allow access to the entire village. The other is that so many times there is only one doctor at the primary center and they only operate on certain hours a few times a week.
Another issue that India is now addressing is that of privatization, everyone wants a buck! No different than the states! The problem is that the people can’t afford the services in the rural areas, so no one wants to practice in those areas (sound familiar?). Culture plays a big part in women seeking healthcare too, there are so many issues. The sad part is that women die from pregnancy and childbirth. Alpana and I both agree that if you could give people food and water, the death rate would decrease. How do you address the issue of healthcare during pregnancy when people are starving? It all comes back to the basic needs of human beings; food, water, and shelter. How do we accomplish that?
Just in case some of you don’t know what my research is: I am looking at the utilization of rural Indian women’s healthcare during pregnancy and childbirth. In India, there are 540 deaths per 100,000 women from pregnancy and childbirth. In the United States that number is 8 deaths per 100,000 and Sweden beats the US at 2 per 100,000! Anyway, it is a major concern and so I am looking at the issues of access and barriers that these women face. I am going to do what is called a qualitative study and only interview 12 women from a village of less than 50,000. I will be hiring an interpreter to go with me into the homes to interview. I know that this experience will open my eyes to many things and make me even more aware of the privileges in my life! I was a bit frustrated and feeling like I don’t’ think I can make a difference, and then I met Dr. Sagnar today. She is really interested in my work and might consider expanding on it, that is way cool for me! Maybe I can make a small difference, my plan was to share the info on why women are not using healthcare services. Maybe it is because services are not available, or just too far from home, or they don’t have transportation. Or maybe they chose not to use outside resources and utilize family assistance, or whatever the reason is, and then find out from these women what they feel they would benefit from regarding health services. What ideas do the women have, can we hear their voices? I think that was the biggest thing Alpana and I talked about; let the women speak on what they need, and can the government listen? What can we do to help give them the care that they need?
My other project is looking at the public health structure; how are services being given in the communities and who is giving those services and of course what services are they? So the two projects should give me a pretty good feel for healthcare within communities.
My camera broke tonight, so I am really bummed. I don’t know if I will
have anytime in the morning to have it checked out or even to pick up a camera. I feel totally lost without it, you know me, miss picture taker <smile>. We will be leaving in the morning for the Himalayan Mountains. There are 5 of us going. We rented a van and have our itinerary set up. It is as follows: Delhi to Kedernath, to Badrinath, to Graurmuish, to Mossiorie, to Rishikesh and then back to Delhi. I might be staying then at Rishikesh at the Himalayan Institute and do some more interviews at the School of Nursing. A contact there is Kathy McKeehan phone: from the states +911352412081, 082, 083. At that point I should be able to make contact with you. I am excited about our journey. It is a very sacred one for Hindu’s and we are in a country with many Hindu’s, so to understand and respect their traditions is very important. I will also be in the most holy of holy cities in India, that of Hardiwar. I will probably find my village around this area.
I have been taking it slow on eating Indian food. Every morning I eat 2 pieces of toast and hot tea. Lunch is usually something light like a sandwich at the local coffee shop, they seem to have food that I can identify that usually costs around 2 dollars a meal. Dinner is Indian food, which is rice and some kind of curry dish. It seems to me that it all tastes the same. I think the problem is that the spices are quite hot and after the first few bites I can’t taste <smile>. Kids, you would love it!
Subject: I did it!!!
Date: Thu, 23 Jun 2005
I am safe and sound! Well actually, not sure how sound <smile>. A bit tired and sore, but no less for wear! I did a 22 mile trek in 2 days, in an elevation of 10,000 to 13,000 feet which took 21 hours. I also survived a 22-hour car ride with 8 people and our entire luggage. It was hot with no air conditioning due to the mountains and car over heating, so it was quite an adventure!
I will send you a couple parts to my journey. I did take time to write down some things, so bear with me on my journey. I wish I could share the pictures with you as I write but not possible.
We just hiked 9 miles in the Himalayans! What an awesome experience!
As I walked the mountain journey (one of the top 13 toughest treks in the world!), I was humbled by the people we met. We met many Sadhu’s (hermit types who give up all worldly goods and live from donations on their spiritual journey of life) on their pilgrimages. Many of them toothless and smiling; all responding with the greeting of “namaste” holding their hands/palms together like in a prayer. What was so amazing to me, was that when we had eye contact and smiled, it seemed like we had this connection, that we were more alike than different. I think that there was this undeniable sense of human caring.Our group of 7 (the driver did not do the hike) were at all different levels for hiking. I was right up there with the lead, our guide B.C. Really, I went into the birthing mode and concentrated on breathing and putting one foot in front of the other. It worked! Of course the beauty all around us was truly what gave me the energy to keep going! It was an awesome experience walking next to the Gonga River, the sound of the roaring river and the beauty of the waterfalls cascading over the mountains were breathtaking. Not to mention everywhere you turned you could see the peaks of mountains with snow! “For the beauty of the earth, for the beauty of the sky” ran through my thoughts and “My God is an awesome God”, the songs just kept flowing and in every step I found a way to praise God for His beauty and for an opportunity to experience this! What an amazing creation we have, and no, we don’t’ have to come to India to appreciate the beauty of the earth, but it is way cool <smile>!
As I walked the mountain journey (one of the top 13 toughest treks in the world!), I was humbled by the people we met. We met many Sadhu’s (hermit types who give up all worldly goods and live from donations on their spiritual journey of life) on their pilgrimages. Many of them toothless and smiling; all responding with the greeting of “namaste” holding their hands/palms together like in a prayer. What was so amazing to me, was that when we had eye contact and smiled, it seemed like we had this connection, that we were more alike than different. I think that there was this undeniable sense of human caring.
A scripture passage that I read reminds me that we really are more alike than different: Gal. 3:28:”There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” What an awesome thought! And one I am thinking more and more about as I am experiencing a different world.
There are many children and families on their pilgrimages. For the Hindu people, it is important to go to the headwaters of the Gonga, which signifies an offering of self and a cleansing of sins for their families, those who came before them, and those who will follow. Many of the women and children were riding on donkeys. I wondered how the donkeys did the trek. There were so many rocks that it was hard to walk, much less have four feet to find footings with!
We started up the trail with our backpacks on. It didn’t take us long, maybe 500 yards, before we knew there was no way we were going to make the trek carrying our packs. So we hired 2 porters to carry our packs, within minutes they were there, ready to go, only taking what they were wearing. Somehow I just luck out with the toothless older men <smile>, mine was so cute, he did not speak any English, but we smiled a lot at each other and they have this amazing way of nodding their heads and saying “okay”; that means ‘yes, I understand’, ‘no, I don’t understand’ and ‘whatever you said, I haven’t a clue, but I am saying this to make you happy’. It can be a bit frustrating, but I love the head nod, its like this yes and no mixed together. It reminds me of those head bobber toys!
You would not believe the load many of the porters were carrying! The donkeys were carrying really heavy packs too, not just people! One of our group got part way and just could not do it, so we got her a donkey to ride the rest of the way.There were a few run away donkeys. Thank goodness they had bells on their necks so you could move out of their way <smile>. First the donkey would run by and then further down the trek you would hear the owner of the donkey calling out and running at a dead run on the path, whistling for his donkey; it really was quite comical <smile>.
When we arrived at Bhojvasa we were met with chi tea, it was so wonderful. I felt like I was on the tundra, just a very flat area surrounded by mountains, the river, and a lot of desert looking plants. Taking the cups of tea from very dirty men and looking around the compound made you wonder where the cups had been and you were sure they had not been washed but not to offend them you took the tea and prayed to God that your stomach would hold out!
Then came the tough part; finding a place to stay! Oh yes, we had accommodations, but they showed them to us and we lost it! Like totally freaked out. We started laughing and crying at the same time; you know the hysteria kind of response. Now remember, we were all green at mountain hiking and tired. We had hiked 9 hours, but I don’t’ think even if I had not been exhausted that the accommodations would have looked good. It was a cellar, truly, a hole in the ground. You walked down some steps into a black hole. The light from the door showed that there was something like a wooden plank on the ground and some old rugs over them. There were no windows, that was it! That was our bed for the night. We said we could sleep outside instead, and then we were shown the next choice. That one was at least the level of the concentration camps. There were Indian women resting in them. The roofs were low with one big room with rugs on the floor. There was one tiny window but it was still dark and dusty, but at least above ground! We felt so bad because we couldn’t sleep there either. We just couldn’t do it! The reality for the Indian people, that is very normal for this part of the country. I felt like a spoilt rich American, but there was no way we could sleep there. So when they showed us the tents, we jumped at them. They were like a gift from God. Oh, wait, they were a gift from God <smile>. Even the rats that ran past our feet didn’t seem so bad, and of course the mice turds I found in my bed (that who knows how many people before me had slept in) made me a bit concerned, but I could deal with it. That night it was suppose to get down to freezing. The family that moved out of the tent said that they froze the night before and didn’t sleep at all. Thank God I bought a sweater, mittens, hat and socks, all wool, from the local shop before taking the trek!
It was really weird going from 110 degrees in Delhi to 30 degrees in the north! Actually on the trek, my hands were blue. I tried taking a picture of them, really funny, cold and just poor circulation!
When we got to the camp/compound, the men were all playing cricket. I had never played and decided to ask if I could try it. They let me, and even though we didn’t speak the same language, they made sure to point out how wrong I was holding the flat bat; they really laughed at me. It was wonderful! Now I can say I played cricket with the best! The children were playing hide and seek, it was so fun to watch them and they were so curious. Slowly they came over to me and we were able to talk a bit, at least I knew they were playing hide and seek, and one boy was trying to show me how to hold the cricket bat as he had watched me play.
The bathroom was quite an experience, like really tough to go use. The outside would have been better. It smelled so bad and it was so dark in there, very scary, glad I was over the runs!
This feels like a different world; until you take the time to look into each others eyes. We are truly all the same. They are only curious about the way we live, and we are curious about the way they live.
We all climbed into bed early that evening, but as we were getting ready an elderly man fainted, and of course being the nurse, I ran to him. He was totally dehydrated, experiencing diarrhea and not drinking enough. He was also a diabetic, which of course was concerning. I just helped out a bit, and by morning he was doing better. Thank God! What an interesting man. He was with a group from London.
Our group is talking about getting up at 3 A.M. to start the hike. Don’t ask me how we will see the path! We want to be at Gaumukh (the headwaters of the Ganga River) at sunrise to experience it. Then we get to bath in the freezing glacier waters and glorify God in His amazing beauty! Truly I am looking forward to it! I know that this will help me appreciate our differences of religions and learn to understand the Hindu culture and traditions.
Subject: Next part of our pilgrimage!!
Date: Thu, 23 Jun 2005
I was awaken at 3 A.M. by one of the girls in our group, Malaak. She couldn’t breath. She was gasping for air. The day before I noticed that she was having a hard time breathing and just encouraged her to take it slow, watching her to make sure she was okay. I asked about asthma but she said she had not been diagnosed so of course she didn’t have any meds! It was very scary! All I could do was have her take some sips of water (helps relax the muscles that surround the airway) and try to calm her enough to do pursed lip breathing (a way to help take in and expel as much air as possible) and just talked to her to reassure her. I have to admit that I was really scared. I know
people die from acute asthma attacks; it was more than anxiety. Anyway, after about an hour she was able to rest. Needless to say we didn’t leave for the headwaters at that point, but about 4:30 A.M. the whole camp came alive and we were up. Malaak and Nina (the other girl who had a hard time hiking) stayed at the camp and would wait for our return in about 6 hours or so and then we would put them on donkeys for the ride down and the rest of us would hike down.
So after making sure Malaak was alright, the five of us headed for Gaumukh. It was a 4 km trek from the camp. Let me tell you, putting one leg in front of the other was a challenge. I didn’t think I was going to make it, but I started singing, and I know, without a doubt that my strength came from God, truly!
We reached the headwaters at the time the sun was just hitting the mouth of the river. It was a sight to behold and one I will treasure forever. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I knew it would be a spiritual experience and it was! I took some alone time sitting on a rock right next to the mouth and did my devotions and then braved the water. I didn’t do a total submersion, but put my head in, arms and legs. It was so cold! The mouth of the river comes out of the glacier. I have never been that close to a glacier. I guess I was surprised by the dark, dirty, glacier and then again there were areas of ice that the sun hit and it reminded me of life. How sometimes we just look at the outside of people and not the true beauty within. It was breathtaking as the sun shone upon it!
Just so all of you know, according to Hindu religion, this is one of the most holy places and people take their pilgrimage here very seriously. If you bath in the water at the mouth of the river, you are cleansing the sins of seven generations before and after you in your family!
When we arrived at Gamukh, there were only a handful of people there. By the time we left, there were at least 50 and many more on the path. The trek was tough and I will send another email telling you about our visit to the holy man. The computers are going down right now, so it will be later.
Subject: Visit with Holy man…
Date: Thu, 23 Jun 2005
Computers are great when they work! Actually I am very thankful for the Internet, makes me feel connected with you all. The power goes out frequently in the more remote parts, so we just have to deal with that. I wanted to tell you about my visit with the holy man.
Our guide knew a holy man that lived a short distance from the mouth of the river in the rocks. We had brought our lunch with, actually it was going to be toast with jelly on it, so we were going to make it at the holy mans tent. While we were sitting in his small tent, he offered us something to drink. I refused the drink and he asked if my stomach was upset. It was, but mostly because I was nervous to drink the tea from the cups that we were being served in. So I told him it was a bit upset. He told me he had just the thing for me, I almost died! Now I’m going to have to drink some goats blood or something. So he was scrounging around looking for something and hands me a packet, it said ‘Imodium’. I just about laughed out loud. It was really weird being in such a primitive setting and to have just your ordinary pills! Needless to say, I was relieved!
As we were enjoying our tea and toast he was reading to us in Hindu out of a book of 1000 names of the Gonga River. He then stopped and pointed outside. There, standing just a few feet away, were two mountain goats. He gives them salt, just like deer Dad! It was pretty neat to see. Of course I had to grab my camera. He also let us take a picture of him with us.
Then we headed back to camp and picked up the two other girls and hiked the rest of the way down the mountain trek. As we were heading back we met hundreds of donkeys with people on them. Mostly the women and children were riding. They were all on their pilgrimage for cleansing. It was an incredible sight to see!
Most people we met greeted us by saying ‘Namaste’. Many wanted to shake our hands and greet us American style by “Hello”, “How are you”. Some of the young men asked about our music and sports as they walked with us for awhile. It felt like every person we met was a part of this amazing family, all on the same journey. We had a connection!
Going back down I was able to take in more of the scenery. It was beautiful! We reached Gangrotrhi at about 7 P.M. and were ready to crash! Every muscle in my body ached and I was totally exhausted! That night we had a wonderful Indian dinner cooked and served by our guides. Our hotel didn’t have hot running water, so we had to ask to have them bring it up for washing up. Also the electricity was only on from 7:30 P.M. to 10:00 P.M., then it was by candle light.
On Wed. morning we were awakened by the temple bells at 6 A.M. and chanting. After dressing I went outside to see all the people bathing in the Gonga river. We were planning on leaving at 8 A.M. but we couldn’t find the driver, so we didn’t end up leaving until11:30 A.M. The ride was again hair raising! We drove for 9 hours. Three people got sick in the car on the way back. It was then I wanted to be back home in the states!
Having said that, I know that this is a trip that will change my life. I know that I will appreciate my life and all the blessings much more and grow to appreciate peoples differences even more.
I don’t know when I will be on the net next. I am leaving in the morning (Friday here) for the Himalayan Institute. I hear it is out in the country, so it might be a bit isolated. We’ll see. I have to admit I am a bit anxious. Thanks for all your prayers. Know that you are all in mine.
At this time, June 24th, my thoughts and prayers are with all of you in
remembrance of Paul. My heart still aches, as I know all of yours does. I wish I could be with you now, just know that I am there in spirit, as is he.
Subject: Indian Massage….
Date: Thu, 23 Jun 2005
Well I had quite the experience tonight. Julie and I are the only ones left in Rishikesh. Tomorrow we both leave for our destinations for our research projects. So tonight, Julie said, “lets treat ourselves to a massage”, okay then…..
Our guide took us to a local place for a full body massage. Well, I have only had a face massage, so not sure what to expect in the first place. Second, we are in India!! What the heck was I thinking!
Anyway we get to this place, dirty, very questionable. We do the massages anyway. I was sent in this room, oh yeah, did I mention dirty, with an older lady. On the floor were mats, two of them with a blanket on them with an outline of a body from all the
oil. All I could think of was, ‘get out, get out’, but noooooo, I didn’t’. Instead, I was polite and she told me to take off all my clothes. So I did! Guess what, the electricity went off, and here I was in a pitch black room with a woman that I was terrified of and naked! There was a dog standing guard outside the door. Now mind you, I wasn’t sure if he was standing guard for me when I bolted out of there, or just growling at who knows what outside the cloth door. Of course I didn’t bolt, I just stood there, feeling very vulnerable and hysterical. The lights came back on and then I had to lay on that mat, in the same space that how many other people did before me, and they were naked to! As a nurse, I can tell you many thoughts of all kinds of diseases and bugs went through my mind! The massage was an hour long. I watched the clock and my clothes the whole time. How I wanted to leave! I don’t remember feeling so uncomfortable before in my life!! I almost killed Julie! When she saw me, she just smiled and said “It was great wasn’t it, I have to admit I thought about how you would react to it and smiled”. I said you’ve got to be out of your mind (only not in that nice of words!). Anyway, I survived. I’ll let you know if I catch any bugs or such <smile>. Now I can laugh. Lets see, it was 3 hours ago. Then I was in tears. I just wanted to come home. I’m better now, not much, but a bit. Then I’m here at the Internet cafe. It is 11 P.M. Julie didn’t come with me and I have to walk back in the dark alone. As I was sitting here, a mouse ran across my purse, not sure if he went in it or not. Really, I was suppose to be doing homework, just can’t right now.
Subject: Trip to Himalayan Institute…
Date: Sun, 26 Jun 2005
Good day to all!!
It is Sunday here. The streets are bustling with people, all going and coming from services. I went to a church service this morning with Dr. Kathy from the Institute. We sat on the floor on a mat; the women were on one mat and the men were on another. The service was in Hindi. They had drums for music and it was mostly chanting. The service was wonderful and a time of reflection on how God has blessed me in my life. We also received communion, which I took. It was a wonderful experience, not knowing a word that was spoken, but feeling God’s presence all around me. Communing in a culture that is half way around the world from my home brought tears to my eyes, knowing that my God is the same; smiling and thinking that He was hearing so many different languages. If I could pray for a gift of the Spirit, I wish it were understanding of languages, but thankfully smiles are just that!
Julie and I had left Rishikesh on Friday morning arriving at the Himalayan
Institute before noon. I had tried to connect with Dr. Kathy Mckeehan the week before and was only able to leave her a message that I was coming on Friday around 11 A.M. So I was a bit worried about whether or not she had got my message. We had been emailing from the states and I had given her approximate dates and had tried to give her the exact dates, but it didn’t work out the way I was hoping it would.
It was a short 30 minute drive from Rishikesh, through what they would classify as a ‘jungle’. There were trees down along the sides of the rode and as we inquired about them the driver told us that it was from the elephants. He stated that there were approximately 500 wild elephants that lived in the woods and they frequently crossed the road. Needless to say my eyes were peeled to the woods in hopes of seeing a wild elephant! No such luck though!
Dr. Kathy had gotten my message but it was a very busy time for her. The examiners for the State were at the Institute for an inspection, so she was right in the midst of that. However, she had arranged a tour of the hospital and facility for me. I met with the Principal (that’s what they call the director of the nursing program) and also the vice-principal. They gave me a wonderful tour and I was able to ask a lot of questions. The facility is on 180 acres. They service 10 million people! Did you read that….10 million people! They have a program where they send out teams to the villages. The Institute serves approximately 400 villages and tries to get to them monthly. They have an 800 bed capacity at the hospital at the Institute and generally it is only 350 to 400 beds that are full. They see mostly the hills people; people that travel for hours, even days to see them. They mostly come to the hospital for malaria and diarrhea problems. TB is also a very big concern. There were family members sleeping on the floors in the halls. The hospital smelled like diarrhea in the halls. Most of the people that were waiting in the halls looked very poor. This hospital is an NGO, which is a non-government organization. So that means most people have to pay something. It is the largest and closest facility for most of the hills people and has good health care. There are generally four wards. One is for those who can’t pay, they are not turned away but they only receive minimal resources and care. Then there is the semi-private ward. Here they pay what they can afford to pay. Then there is the private ward where they pay for most of their services and have a private room. The ward for the wealthy get top notch service. Some of the money they pay goes to take care of those who can’t pay.
I was shown the OB ward and toured it. There were at least 20 cots on each wall. The women looked so skinny and even ill, however, they were there for healthy deliveries. They stay 3 days and then all head home with their babies, it cost them 25 rs (40 rs per American dollar) a day for their food. It looked like a picture from a movie to me. It seemed so unreal, how much we take for granted! I had a hard time with my stomach. Here I am a nurse, and I could hardly handle the smells in the hospital.
They were so proud of their facility and should be. It’s just that the standards are so different. I also went over to the medical college and had a 2 hour visit with the nursing faculty. We both had questions for each other, it was fun to listen to them and of course they think I am very rich and wondered how could I afford to travel and come to India. They asked what kind of job I did and what do I get paid. Many questions. I left feeling very fortunate.
The students were waiting in the halls, they wanted to greet me. I felt like royalty. I talked to them about their classes and what they enjoyed about school. One said the food and that she has never had so much to eat! Many of them come from the hills. They say the problem is that they don’t have enough instructors because they all go abroad so they can make more money. To start work as a nurse in the hospital at the Institute, they start at 5000 rs a month. That is about 125 dollars! So I guess I am a very wealthy woman!
Sat. was a quite day for me and very hot. No a/c in the building I was staying in. A few salamanders were playing games with me. They were in my room on the walls and I guess we were playing hide and seek! Of course I really wanted to know where they were at all times, but they didn’t think that was a good idea. I would go into the bathroom and before I would sit on the toilet I would check it out. I had a surprise one time and let me tell you that is all it took! I think I will be checking my toilet for a very long time! Of course, now I can smile, let me tell you I really lost it, I cried all night. I just asked God, “Okay, so what am I doing here?” It was a really tough day and I was so lonesome for all of you!
Sat. night I went to the movies with Dr. Kathy. They showed Shrek 2 to the children of the oshrum, or compound. There were about 60 children there. They are so beautiful. Their big dark eyes and beautiful skin complexions and the smiles warmed my heart, just what I needed! I enjoyed the movie too! It was in English!
I have to admit that I am having a hard time with the food. I have toast every morning for breakfast, dry toast mind you and tea. For lunch I am eating mostly rice, sometimes trying the dal (which is a pea or bean based sauce) generally it is quite spicy, and for dinner it is usually the same thing. I am missing fruit and salads, which I have had very little of since I got here. Actually, no salads whatsoever and only 2 bananas! Major cravings! I think I miss the food the most. Oh what I wouldn’t give for a steak, salad, baked potato and some sweets for a dessert <smile>. I have already lost some weight, don’t worry Mom and Dad, I am still healthy!
Now I am back in Rishikesh. The hope of doing my research out of the Himalayan Institute did not pan out. Dr. Kathy was not to positive in regards to being able to interview Moms in their homes. She just felt that it would be hard to accomplish because I was an outsider and people may not talk to me. I am frustrated and feel lost. I am not sure what will become of my research, maybe it will be impossible to do. Then what? So I need to take a few days and figure out what I am going to do. I will keep you all informed!
Subject: A new day!
Date: Tue, 28 Jun 2005
The monsoon season is here! The last 2 days we have been fortunate that it has rained cats and dogs during the night and the days it clears up. I’m sure some of you have been hearing about the flooding. So far it has not affected this area, but I’m sure it will become a concern. I think the biggest problem is that for 6 months there has been no rain, and then it pours! Everyone is smiling. The monsoon brings with it the promise of newness, new crops, new grass, and a freshness that fills the air. There are birds everywhere, they are all around and the singing is almost deafening but in a wonderful way! There are so many different kinds of birds, I wish I had a bird book to look at! When I wake up in the morning and I go out on to my balcony (which is wonderful to have tea on ) I hear this amazing chorus, it is like God is serenading me with His amazing creation.
My balcony overlooks this beautiful garden, and beyond the gardens there is a new building going up, it has been interesting to watch the men work. I am amazed at how they can work in the heat, although today is in the 80’s or so. What a relief! Next to the new building there are these small parcels of land that are tiered. They look to be approximately 20 by 24 foot areas. Yesterday I watched as the oxen plowed these small
areas and then a young man went behind with this huge bag of seed on his shoulders and planted by hand. In the garden below me, there is this older man sitting on the ground cutting the grass. It looks like he is using a pruning scissors, a very large one, and he is cutting the grass to the roots or to the ground. I asked about it, and was told that this would give the new grass an opportunity to grow with the rain. It seems like so much work. It took him all day yesterday, with many rests to cover about an area of 8 by 10 feet.
I am greeted everyday with smiles and ‘Nameste madam Joyce’. It is very sweet and makes me feel like I am belonging. There are only men working here at this hotel; men in the restaurant, men cleaning rooms, and men at the reception desk. I have yet to see a woman working here! Everyday I have been walking down to the Internet cafe. I pass a few beggars, I have connected with one, he is an older gentleman. I make sure I have some money to give to him as I go by. He too has this amazing smile, toothless and is very very skinny! I want to talk to him, maybe today and see what his name is at least!
I hired an interpreter to assist me with my project. Actually, I hired Rekha, she went with us on our trek to the mouth of the river. She was our guide B.C.’s niece. She lives in Dehradun which is about 30 km away so she might be staying with me.
Today we will be going to the local hospital and find the clinics. I am hoping to talk to some healthcare providers and staff to find out about their healthcare system. I am excited, this is what I came to do!
We will spread the word about my interviews. I am a bit worried I will have more women than I need because I am compensating them 220 rs (about 5 dollars) which is a lot of money to them. So how do you chose who to interview?! I am limiting my interviews to women who delivered at home in the last 6 months. So, we shall see! I have a feeling that my sample will be very biased (although there is no way to get around it without being biased for a qualitative study I guess!). The interpreter I hired has already mentioned 2 women (of course relatives of hers). They want to help each other out, which is a good thing! Today I will also be going to a local orphanage. I brought quite a few things for the children (balloons, suckers, pencils, hair clips, misc. toys) probably 10 pounds of stuff, so it will be nice to take them out of my suitcase, then I can shop!
When I was walking down the street yesterday two women came up to me and started walking with me one on each side. One asked me for a pen by looking like she was signing or writing, she didn’t speak any English. Most women in the rural area do not speak English. I didn’t have any with me so today I brought a purse full to give away! I also brought some perfume for the women I will interview. Just think of all the
room I will have for shopping! I really haven’t bought much. I am worried about carrying my bags. I understand that they make some wonderful wool vests up here in the mountains and you can’t get them in Delhi, so I will just have to buy a vest for John.
I have been doing a lot of schoolwork the last 2 days, spending some time relaxing and settling in to Rishikesh. Now with Rekha here to help me with interpretation, I am ready to tackle the city!
As I sat eating my breakfast of tea and toast, I am again reminded of the beauty of the earth! I was looking at the Himalayan foothills in all their beauty in one direction, and as I looked in the other I saw a roadway with people hiking, biking and a cow or two wandering on the road walking as if they owned the place (oh wait, they do <smile>).
God is good and gracious and I am so blessed. I am reminded that for many people it is a day to day struggle, not sure what tomorrow will bring, yet smiling and going about their day!
Today will be a new journey for me, one of adventure and new insights into life. I challenge myself to make a difference in someone’s life today as I challenge all of you! We don’t have to be in India to make a difference. I can tell you, being in a foreign place, the smiles that I receive have brightened my day and touched my life, its as simple as that!
Subject: Wild elephants!!
Date: Wed, 29 Jun 2005
What a day! I did it! I saw a real wild elephant! Actually 2 of them. A mama and a baby! Today we took a motorcycle out about 15 km into the hills. It was quite an experience!
Rekha, my interpreter, showed up with her friend Wendy at my door and said that we would need transportation and her friend owns a motorcycle. So it looks like we will have transportation for our interviews. I can’t imagine driving in the mountains with the three of us on the motorcycle, it should be an adventure!
I also had an interview today. Yesterday I did two of them. The whole family joins in. It is really wild, lots of noise and commotion. It’s like the interviews have taken on a life of their own! I am learning so much about the family structure, yet know so little. No one does anything without a family member. In interviewing the woman today, her sister-in-law was answering all of the questions. The children were all sitting around me, good thing I brought some balloons and suckers with me!
I have had so much fun the last few days! The motorcycle with 3 of us on it is quite an experience. I just close my eyes as the traffic is busy and tight, and then I pray!
Today we went to the local government hospital. I ended up in the Superintendent of the Hospitals office, and I actually got to talk to him. He even called in a gynecologist to talk to me about women’s services during pregnancy! I felt like a queen. They have treated me so wonderfully!
Today we also drove along a canal that was redirected from part of the Ganges river from Rishikesh to Hardiwar. It was so beautiful. There were cows, goats, and birds everywhere. The houses were huts made out of straw roofs.
We stopped at a few and visited with the people. It was an unbelievable experience! And then of course seeing the two wild elephants was a bonus! I even got to pet them. One was 60 years old.
Tonight we are going to a ceremony on the river. I am looking forward to it. Tomorrow we are going into a distant village for a few more interviews. I am very pleased with what I have so far. It is very different than what I thought I would get so far. The dynamics of the interviews are hard to describe! I think I will have fun with my paper! I even got to interview an 18-year-old young man, he insisted! His view is very interesting.
Tomorrow night I have been invited to go to the local orphanage and sing with the children. There are about 54 of them that stay there. There are another 80 children who come on a daily basis for the day. It is a very busy place.
I am filled with joy, I feel that I am having an opportunity to see parts of the true India. There is this beautiful simplicity of life that draws you to the people.
Oh, I went shopping yesterday. I am having my wedding dress made! It was a really fun experience going to the market place and being herded into a shop, sitting on a bench, the men (no women sales people—actually, no women in the work force that can be seen) helping me. They threw out all these bolts of material, except there were no bolts, just material. All the colors were beautiful, it was so fun! I chose off white, they were disappointed, that is their color of mourning, sorry. So they measured me (which means I can’t gain any weight-yikes!) and I tried to explain what I wanted, we just talked. I have no idea what it is really going to look like! It will be a surprise!
For those of you who are camping at Itasca over the 4th, have fun, I will be thinking of you and wishing I were there. I have been invited to go to Rekhas home in Dehradun on the weekend. I am looking forward to that. There are 17 people who live in her home. I think we will be taking the motor bike; the three of us.
Subject: Orphange visit!
Date: Fri, 01 Jul 2005
Yesterday I had the opportunity to interview 3 women in the mountains. Let me tell you, riding triple on a motorbike, flying on the road in the mountains. certainly makes you feel very close to God. I don’t think He has heard so many prayers! I just shut my eyes and just trust that my life will be safe! The drive into the mountains was beautiful (when I dared to look!). I made the girls stop so I could take some pictures of the monkeys, you know me and my picture taking! Anyway as I was taking the pictures we were attacked by monkeys. They were all over and touching us, so back on the bike!
Our destination was a small village. When we arrived there the smells of urine and feces were so strong I thought my stomach couldn’t handle it. Yet here is where I was to interview 3 women.
I was taken to a hill, and looking down into the valley were huts, and garbage. So much garbage! I almost turned and ran, and then I felt so ashamed of myself. People really live here. It is hard to believe. Anyway, my Interpreter wouldn’t let me go down to the huts, she said it was too much of a health hazard for me, so she went (I was chicken I guess!). The women and all their children came up the hill to meet me. Again, my interview was with a community, not just one woman. I was struck by the beauty of the women. They are absolutely the most beautiful women I have ever seen, their dark eyes, their beautiful long dark hair, their perfect complexions, and this inner beauty that just
shines through! They too were dressed in bright beautiful clothing, it seemed so out of place in such a primitive type setting.
The children were half naked, and the flies were everywhere. I would say that it was the valley of the flies! I watched the children with flies in their eyes, their ears, their mouths. I just wanted to scream. I could hardly handle the flies biting my ankles much less landing on my face. They seemed to act like it didn’t bother them. As a nurse, I was having hysterias. I wanted more than anything to reach out and brush the flies off of them and to take them all home with me. My heart just ached.
Then I interviewed them. Three women, all under 20 years old, married at 13 and 14 years old, arranged marriages. Each had at least 2 children. They received no healthcare services, too far for them to go and no money. It made me so angry, how can life be so unequal? How can we, as human beings allow people to live like this, yet this is over half of India, the rural very poor people.
There was this unbelievable sweetness that radiated from them. A gentle calm that I found so amazing. A strength that I could only hope to achieve in a lifetime. Yet here they were, sharing a part of their lives with me, very shyly I might add. Two of the women almost died from excessive bleeding after delivery. Interviewing them was a very humbling experience.
When I gave them their compensation from my study (220 rs, which equals about 5 dollars) they all politely refused. Of course I gave it to them, but they had so much pride. At that moment in my life, I was never prouder to be called ‘woman’!
Last night I was able to go to an orphanage next to where I am staying. There are 54 children that are living there. I went to hear them sing. There was this 5 year old little boy who came and climbed onto my lap, it made my heart sing. I wrapped my arms around him and cherished the moment.
It was God’s gift to me to hear the giggle of a child and be able to hold him in my arms. He sat with me for the hour of music. Another little girl, cute as a button, whispered in my ear that they had something very special for me. They sang a welcome song to me and then covered me with flowers, it was so wonderful, I had to hide my tears! I had brought some suckers, balloons, toys and hair ribbons with me and was able to share that. I sure am glad that I had put them in my suitcase!
During one of the songs, a hugh frog jumped across the floor. Guess who’s lap he headed for? Of course I screamed, the kids all laughed! Then as I was holding Oinak (the 5 year old), I pulled a bug from his hair, yep, it was a head louse! I am a school nurse you know. and I work with head lice all the time. I had everything I could do to not let that keep me from cuddling him. When I got back to the hotel I discarded my clothes rather fast and then I felt so bad, I am way to protected! It was a wonderful evening with the children, and I hope to spend a few nights with them.
My research is coming along, today I was also able to visit a clinic. We are so lucky to live where we do. I think most of you, no I mean all of you, would have a really hard time going to this clinic and actually using services. Anyway, I am learning about their healthcare structure and it is so interesting. It really makes me appreciate our care, even though America is too expensive.
I am doing well. I can’t wait for John to come! There is so much I want to share with him. I can’t wait to show you all my pictures and tell you my stories. Everyday I am more amazed at Gods goodness in our lives. I don’t understand how humans can be so inhuman and allow people to live like they do, but God is still present, I can feel Him.
Have a wonderful 4th, I will be going to Dehradun with my interpreter, Rekha, and staying with her and her family. I am looking forward to being in the heart of a family. I will be out of contact, except for phone text messages until next Mon.
Subject: Weekend in Dehradun!
Date: Mon, 4 Jul 2005
Hi to all of you!! Happy 4th of July!
Just arrived back in Rishikesh after the weekend in Dehradun with Rekha and Wendy. We got drenched in rain on the way back, the three of us on the bike again.
For the most part it was a wonderful weekend. Wendy, who is Rekha’s friend, is 23 and is the one who has been driving us all around. She is an amazing person, so full of life and so honest. She is trying to get into the police academy. She also has won nationals for cricket and for badminton. We stayed at her home on Sat. night. Her family was so wonderful. Her mother and I really connected, even though she could not speak any English and I can’t speak Hindi. We both had tears when I left. I just kept reminding myself that someday I will see this woman again.
Wendy’s brothers both could speak English fairly well, especially her older brother. Her father could also speak English well. I asked why the men could speak it so well and not the women. Rekha told me that the women, for the most part, aren’t able to go to school and learn English, so therefore they don’t know it. The boys are sent to school and not always the girls.
It is strange and wonderful staying with a family. This family was warm and welcoming and laughed at my mistakes as I was trying to talk Hindi. Wendy is learning English and she says all the time “Joyce” with this amazing beautiful smile, and it makes me just want to hug her! What’s funny is that I find I talk more loudly when I know they can’t understand me as well, weird. I know they can hear, what’s with that!
It is hard to get use to using an Indian bathroom and I prayed that I wouldn’t need to use it very often, hence, I drank less water, and feel a bit dehydrated. It is hard to get use to everyone sleeping in their clothes and then wearing them again. And to have 3 or 4 sleep in the same bed. I was out of my comfort zone a bit, but I went with the flow. Not that they are dirty. On the contrary. They scrub their houses with this really strong smelling chemical every day, and you take your shoes off when you enter the house.
I have been totally eating Indian food. It has been wonderful and I am looking forward to when John comes to feed him Indian food! Although I have to admit I am a bit hungry for meat and for just a plain old hamburger!
Sunday night we stayed at Rekha’s house. It is a 9-bedroom house, you can tell they have more money than Wendy’s family. They are also the upper caste. But I have to say I was very intimidated by her Dad. At one point I was even afraid.
On Sat. night when we were going to sleep, Rekha asked me if she could borrow 10,000 rs. Now that is a bit of money and I felt totally uncomfortable. I remember my professor saying not to even trust Rekha blindly. They don’t mean to be rude, but they don’t understand the value of money in America and how, even though we seem rich to them, by American standards we are not, and we work hard for our money. Anyway, I told her that I would be more than happy to pay her in advance what I owe her for being my Interpreter, but I didn’t feel comfortable or have the money to loan her that amount. Anyway, she said her Dad was in trouble and needed the money. So when we got to her house, everyone left me alone with this very condescending man. He was making some very rude comments and my defenses were up. He poured me a very full glass of whiskey and told me to drink. I explained that I didn’t drink and he insisted. It was so uncomfortable! I sipped on it a bit while he told me that he was financially in trouble and how as good people in the world we need to help each other. I thought I was going to puke! I excused myself and said I needed to use the bathroom and then found the girls and tried not to be alone with him again.
The family dynamics in that home were sad. Rekha’s mother is this amazing beautiful woman, who works very hard. She could not have been more gracious to me. Her mother-in-law was also very kind and gracious. Neither of them spoke a word of English. I spent probably 2 hours alone with them and we somehow managed to talk together.
Rekha has two beautiful younger sisters, Ray and Tony (nick names that I could pronounce). They are 15 and 17 years old. They both spoke excellent English and we spent a bit of time together, especially Ray and I (the 17 year old). We even sang together! And I have this amazing tape of the two girls singing this beautiful romance song for John and I. Rekha’s brother was there also, he is 20 years old, a very warm, sensitive person. He asked me what I thought about the Indian women as I am studying and interviewing them for my research. I told him that I think they are the most beautiful women in the world, and he said “no, tell me what you see in their hearts”. I knew I liked him then. I told him that I see this inner beauty and strength as the women are living lives that they would describe as their ‘fate’. Most are in arranged marriages and as Rekha would say: ‘slaves to their husbands’, with no other choice for them.
As I visited in their homes, it did feel like that, especially in Rekha’s home. Her mother could not even come into the room where her husband was sitting without a slight bow to him and this servant attitude. Rekha had shared that she feels her mother is his slave. It felt so uncomfortable. Then when he wasn’t there, we had so much fun. Even the girls opened up more, and also the grandmother. I talked Mia (Rekha’s mother) into trying on her wedding sari for me. It was beautiful, and she glowed! I wish I could explain the beauty of this woman, her grace and charm, her strength, her compassion, the depth of her heart that shone through in her as she opened up. Us girls even danced, and so did she. It was fun, and Mia smiled and laughed, which I didn’t see when her husband was around.
In Rekha’s home there were 17 people. Wendy, Rekha and I slept together in one bed, needless to say I didn’t sleep a wink.
I hired Rekha’s mother to sew some outfits for me. I am having Diana’s, Emily’s, Kelsey’s, and Nissa’s dresses made for our wedding. They are bright beautiful colors; yellow, peach, purple and green! I hope they all turn out! It will be wonderful to have something that Mia made! Rekha told me after we left that her mother told her to take extra special care of me. I am so thankful that I had the chance to spend some time with their families.
I think that Rekha and Wendy will be with me until I leave for Delhi. They seem to be a bit attached to me; Wendy because she really likes to be with me, Rekha, mostly I think, because I am an American and she knows I have money.
I have interviewed 7 women as of now. The interviews have gone really well. Today we stopped at another hospital. Tomorrow we will try to interview a few more women. On Wed. we are planning on going into a village and meet with an ANM (Auxiliary Nurse Midwife) who is the heart and soul of healthcare within the villages. I also interviewed an ANM today at Rekha’s home.
Oh, guess what? I even tried on a sari! It was this beautiful light purple (Nissa, you would love it). Grandma even played dress me up, giving me jewelry to wear. All the women and girls were helping me get dressed, I felt like a bride, and everyone was giggling, including me! It was a wonderful experience. Then when I was dressed I had to present myself to their father (yuk!) but also to their brother, and he was so cute and said politely “You are so beautiful, it makes me want to be a few years older”.
It was fun!
The country side is beautiful, but it is so sad how much garbage there is. I’m not talking about a few pieces of paper, there are piles of it! Everywhere! Now I know what a person said to me about if I could see through the filth and poverty, I would see and experience this amazing culture and country! For the most part, I can look past the garbage, although Rekha and Wendy giggle when I keep telling them not to throw garbage on the ground, they will then pick it up, but it is very apparent that there is not even a thought about the garbage. I have asked many places where their garbage can is, and they all tell me “just throw it on the ground”.
This week I will be doing some serious studying for school. So I guess I best get to work.
It is July 4th here, just another day. I am having a hard time knowing that my family is all together and celebrating a big family reunion. I wish I were with them today. I am missing Nate and Diana so much and of course I am missing my honey.
I pray that this finds you all well and that you all had a wonderful 4th. I am finding that God has many journeys to walk, I always knew that, but as I see the spirits of people, I believe that their strength to endure is given by God. I know that Mia will sit at the right hand of God in all His splendor someday. I feel I will be judged more severely than her in my life, as “to whom much is given, much will be expected”.
Somehow I want to make a difference in this world. I want to make it a better place, I want to count! I know God has this amazing plan for me in my life, I feel that I am meant to do something and I am just not sure what it is. I feel He is talking to me, I just don’t know what He is saying.
Peace to all of you, be safe.
Subject: Mountain interviews….
Date: Thu, 07 Jul 2005
Greetings to all of you!
The last two days have been quite an adventure. I had more interviews to do and wanted to do them in the rural villages. So again, Rekha, Wendy and I headed out on Wendy’s bike into the mountains. The ride the day before yesterday was beautiful. The weather was hot but dry. Again, God’s creativity was everywhere! How cool is it that He created the monkeys! He must have had so much fun in creation….. :).
We stopped at this one hut along the roadside. The family were Muslim. They were living in a one room hut with no sides to it, only a thatched roof made out of grass. There were maybe 10 cots in the hut, on them the women and children were sitting. The goats were standing all around, and the chickens were perched on the cots and on the poles holding up the roof.
As we walked to the hut, the cows were everywhere and with the recent rains, the muck was hard to get through. These are times that living on a farm sure came in handy! As Rekha and Wendy were going “yuk”, I was trodding my way through it. I can’t even explain my feelings as I entered their home. They were so gracious, and in the midst of such poverty, the women were adorned in all their beauty.
The hardest part was seeing the sleeping children covered in black flies, truly covered! I wanted to reach out and cover them, or to chase the flies off. Again, as I interviewed two of the women, there were 3 other women and all the children sitting right there. A very humbling experience! The one mother I interviewed was only 16 years old with a brand new baby, four days old. I asked how her baby was sleeping and nursing. She told me “My baby cries all the time”. She was so young. Her sister-in-law had a 3 month old baby and she told me her baby has been sick for weeks. She looked like she was what I would classify as a ‘failure to thrive’ infant. So small. I talked to her about going to the doctor. She said she had a few weeks ago but it didn’t help. I encouraged her to take her back to the doctor. In India, females are valued different than in most countries and sometimes they are not taken for medical care.
While my interviews were informative, my heart broke as I left that hut. How do people live this existence day after day? My understanding was that this family was milkers, they sold the milk from their cows to people around the area.
During the interview, the women were very shy and giggled when I asked them about birth control. But they were very interested in how to not have anymore babies and asked questions. I have found that my interviews have been intertwined with teaching about women’s healthcare, which has been rewarding for me.
Yesterday we headed up to the mountains again to a village about 24 km from Rishikesh. We thought the rains had stopped. Not so! Here we were, on the bike, the three of us, with pouring rain! I kept thinking that we were in danger and taking too many risks, which of course we were. I told the girls we should head back. They just smiled and said “it is an adventure”. That adventure took us 2 hours to get to the village! The roads were terrible, the rain hard, and we had to walk the last 3 km due to land slides from the monsoons. By the time we got to the village, I looked like a drowned rat! Here we were in a very remote village, and the women, again, were beautiful in their saris of bright colors. Fresh as flowers. Even the women working with the cows, cleaning their pens, looked beautiful. How do they do it?
We met a lot of children on the way up to the village. They were going to school. They had to walk the 3 km to attend school. They were all in outfits, very American I thought. They were full of smiles and many stopped to ask me “Where you from?” They wanted to know my name and shake my hand. How wonderful are the children!
In the village, I felt like the pied piper! As I walked to the ANM’s home (Which was up the hill further), I had this trail of small children following me. They were intrigued by my camera, so I had to take pictures and show them.
I finally found the ANM (auxiliary nurse midwife) who is the heart and soul of the villages regarding healthcare. She invited us into her home for tea. She lived in a small room, I would say a 6 by 10 space. We sat and talked for an hour and shared stories of mothers and babies. She goes to 10 villages and visits mostly the mothers and children. She gives out medications, vaccinations, birth control, education and name it, she does it. Her training is similar to an LPN in our country. A very smart, compassionate woman. The bond that developed in that short time was amazing. Then she took us to interview a mother in the village.
Here I was in a home (more like a concrete home set into the mountainside), sitting with 8 women and 6 children interviewing this woman. These interviews certainly have taken on a different perspective than I thought. It is a whole family, or in this case, a whole community that I interviewed! The older women shared their stories too.
Actually, I felt that I was in the presence of God in that small home. I constantly see this amazing inner strength and beauty of the women. My thoughts were, how could I be so blessed to experience this? They served me tea and sweets, and we laughed and talked about women issues and then they asked me a question, one I have pondered since then; “What words of wisdom do you have to share with us as women?” Wow, what could I share with them? I felt so humbled in their presence. I shared that I have seen such beauty and strength in the women I have met. I believe them to be the true heart of India. I encouraged them, as women, to teach their children, both boys and girls to respect each other and value their worth. Mostly to learn how to take care of themselves as women first, then their families. They need to be healthy, and to teach the importance of taking care of themselves to their children, especially the girls who will go on to have children. I talked about why I was doing the study; because so many women are dying during their pregnancies and deliveries as well as the infants.
As I talked, I watched the faces of these women, you could tell that they have worked hard in their lives. They shared with me that basically the men do nothing and the women are their slaves. They too want that to change. They don’t want the same for their children. I asked what they would share with me. They said they want the women to be more independent and have a healthier lifestyle, not in those exact words of course, translation loses a lot!
I was given Mango’s from their orchards, they wanted my address, and then they too followed me until I left the village. I can’t even share with you how I felt; awestruck by such strength, overwhelmed by such beauty, and as I left the village, I looked down the mountain and there were piles of garbage, what a dichotomy.
I have now interviewed 10 women. I think that is all I will be able to do, so I am finished with my interviews. Now comes the hard part of compiling my data and making some sense of it.
As we were coming down the mountain, the rain had stopped, the sun was peeking through, it was beautiful! We let the bike coast down most of the way (yes, around all the hairpin curves!). And then, the girls were singing, this beautiful harmonious melody. One in front of me on the bike and one behind me. It was a moment that I will always remember. Their soft sweet voices in the quietness of the journey down the mountain, the innocence of their ages, yet the strength to change the ‘fate’ as they would call it, of women.
This journey has been amazing! While I am lonesome and I miss you all
terribly, I will cherish these experiences the rest of my life, and hopefully they will guide me in my life journey.
Date: Sat, 9 Jul 2005
It’s Sat. today. It is so hot today, and humid! I went to the orphanage the other night again to here the kids sing. The kids recognized me and were so excited that I was back. I met a girl whose name was Nissa. She was so excited when I said I knew a very special girl whose name was also Nissa.
As we were singing that same old huge frog showed up and ended up in my lap again. The kids just laughed, what’s with this frog?
This orphanage will be a place that I will want to sponsor. So if there is any of you looking to send your money to a worthwhile cause, I can tell you first hand that this is an amazing place.
The power went out as we were singing and it was time for the children to go to bed. I was standing there in the dark when I felt a small hand in mine. This sweet little voice said “don’t be afraid, I will walk with you”. She and I had been eyeing each other during the singing, winking and smiling and such. She led me down this long path, in the dark, and told me she wanted me to see her room. She was beautiful; I wish I could bring her home. I walked with her to her room, there was a candle in the window, I wondered how it had got there. Other children were already in the room. It had 12 cots in it. She wished me to come back to see her and hugged me as I as leaving. You know, the innocence of a child is amazing. She didn’t know me at all yet she opened her heart to me. I see why God says to come to him as children, so innocent and open, full of trust and love.
I had another interview today. I thought I was going to be done, but I had an opportunity to do an interview and I wanted to give this family something. One of the waiters at the hotel I am staying at every morning greets me with this beautiful smile and asks me how I slept. He is gracious and always curious about something. He has asked me many questions and most mornings we spend an hour talking. Today he invited me to have lunch at his home. At first I was a bit anxious, not sure how I should take it, told by many to be cautious if a man asks you to his home. Anyway, I went. I took Rekha with me, which was fine with him. We also asked him to talk to his wife about an interview.
He was so excited to take me to his home. He told me “I am a poor man, I welcome you to my home”. His wife and him along with their son, live in a small one room house. It had two beds in it and a small kitchen area. No windows, only a door that had a cloth hanging over it. We sat on the bed with a newspaper spread out and his wife prepared the most wonderful meal I have had. She piled the rice on high! They have this wonderful way of serving food, in many small tin containers/bowls. It is just FUN! She had made 5 different dishes. And as is the tradition, she did not eat while I was there. The women serve everyone first, clean the kitchen and then eat, usually by themselves or with one of their children. It was so hard to eat when she was sitting there, very intent on making sure our dishes were full.
She kept telling me “you eat too little”. As we were sitting there eating, she was nursing her baby. It was so beautiful and natural. We had this wonderful discussion about their families and then after we were done eating the family albums came out. I had the opportunity to see many family pictures, it was wonderful. Of course I have shared mine too. Everyone is so intrigued by them. Most can’t understand how my husband could let me come to India alone.
I am constantly humbled by the simplicity and sincerity of the Indian people. They have such good hearts. I am leaving Rishikesh on Monday to go back to Delhi. I have to admit that I wish I were staying here longer. Rekha and Wendy are going with me to Delhi. We are then going to Jaipur and Agra. They are going to keep me company. I am glad they are able to get away. Of course to them it is a real vacation, and for me I will be glad of the company. We have had a lot of fun together and I enjoy their humor and energy. Of course having them with for interpretation and history information is wonderful.
I picked up my wedding dress yesterday! It is beautiful. There are a few alterations that I will make on it, but overall I love it! The girls dresses are coming along. I am excited to see all of them. Kelsey’s and Nissa’s are done and absolutely beautiful in bright yellow and purple. I have to admit that I am having fun shopping for clothes. I have a feeling Diana will get royally spoilt! Nate is a bit harder to find something for!
For those of you who don’t know, I sold my trailer house. The hard part is that for this sale to go through, I have to be out by July 22nd. It is going to be tough! I am in India and John is coming on the 17th. So if any of you kind souls are able to help John this week that would be great! I wanted to say to heck with the deal and wait until I get home, but at the same time, it is a cash deal and full asking price. So John is dealing with all my headaches! Bless his heart!
Tonight at the Internet café I met this Chaplain from Maine, her name was Joy. We talked for about an hour. It was so much fun to meet someone who speaks English! She was very interested in my project, and as I shared with her, the tears flowed. I have been so touched by the lives that I have seen; my heart is full of blessing and thanksgiving for what I have experienced and for what I have in my life!
Subject: Back in Delhi….
Date: Tue, 12 Jul 2005
I am back in Delhi and it is raining cats and dogs! It has been raining now for 3 days. I have gotten a bit drenched. You know that rat I was talking about, well she has resurfaced a few times I would say! Caught a really good cold. I hope I am over it when John gets here, lets see in 6 days! Yeah!
John, Johnny, Joann, Nate, Matt, Micah, Sandra, Kelsey, Nissa, Jo, Mom, thank you all for helping with my trailer. It feels really weird to have everyone packing and moving my things when I’m not there. They all got to see my dirty, messy house, sorry. But I thank you from the bottom of my heart! And of course, John., you are wonderful and I love you so much, thank you!
Yesterday we were in the most tiny car I have ever seen (wish I could remember the name of it!). While it was cute, it was so small, and my bags alone packed the car and the four of us (Rekha, Wendy, the driver, who happens to be a cousin of Rekha’s and me) were cramped into the tiny space. I never did see out the windshield, it was fogged up the whole 8 hours of driving. The driver (Amid), just laughed and kept wiping his side off with a rag, which actually made it worse than if he would have left it alone. He is 22, wanting to listen to his music on the CD player he had, never two hands on the wheel, tooting his horn constantly. It truly was another life changing experience and one that I was in constantcontact with God :).
The morning I left Rishikesh, (which was yesterday I guess, time has no meaning to me right now) I had heard that the day before a bus had rolled down the mountain side and 26 people were killed. It was near the village that just the day before
Rekha, Wendy and I had visited. They got too close to the side of the rode and the bus went over. It was 3 hours before any help got to them. How very sad, local people, mostly women and children, how precious and uncertain life is.
I also went and had lunch with the same family that Rekha and I had visited the day before. They were so wonderful to me. I went alone, so our conversation was mostly smiles and gestures, but it was fun! Sheka, the wife, gave me two toe rings of hers, she got them when she was married five years earlier. I tried to refuse, she wouldn’t take no for an answer! She even put them on my toes! How humbling was that! Her son was sick, she had just taken him to the doctor. Actually, most of the children in her small building were sick with the stomach flu or something.
I was sad to leave Rishikesh. I feel that I made some wonderful friends and had moments that rocked my world.
Today we leave for Jaipur, mostly to sight see and then to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. I won’t have a chance to get on the internet this week, I don’t think anyway, so just in case, be safe! I have a limited amount of time right now, so I didn’t get a chance to respond to some of your emails. I will on the weekend! Thanks for emailing! I find when I log on and I see all the emails from friends and family I have this overwhelming sense of joy and support. I need you to know that I can feel your prayers, it is a really wonderful feeling.
I met this amazing woman and man last night and spent the evening with them just talking. One is from Canada and the other is from California, just sharing experiences and then of course emails!
I will be back in Delhi on the weekend.
I miss you all and send my thoughts and prayers out to you! I know that I couldn’t do this journey without your support.
Subject: I’m exhausted!!!
Date: Fri, 15 Jul 2005
Greetings to all of you!!
I left for Jaipur on Tues. Wow it seems like longer ago than that!
It has been a busy week. Wendy and Rekha went with me. We took a
bus to Jaipur. It was a nice comfortable bus with a/c. I sat next to a women named Arti. She was 24 years old and in her last year in computer engineering. She was a bit shy, but once we started talking she really opened up and it was so fun to have 5 hours to
talk! She was asking me about marriages in America. She has a boyfriend, but he is from a different caste and she would never be able to marry him because of that. Her parents would not approve and she stated that she would never do anything against her parents.
She asked about divorce and how I felt about it. I told her I wasn’t the best person to talk to, because I had went through it. She stated she could never understand how a man and a women who were married could ever split up. I agreed with her. I still
don’t understand it! She stated that it is totally unacceptable in India for a woman to get a divorce. She said the woman has to sacrifice for the man. Okay, that was when I told her a thing or two 🙂 . Anyway, it was very interesting to here about the culture and wedding views. She also asked questions about sex and how America seems to be so open with it and in India if a woman is sexually active before they are married, no one would want them as their wife. She did state that it was a double standard, because
the man could actually do whatever he wants and that isn’t a problem; it just is for the woman. Quite interesting!
We got to Jaipur and it was raining, actually it rained all week! I feel a bit water logged! In the morning we took a tour to one of the Red Forts which dates
back to the 1600’s. It was pretty cool. Especially since I got to ride an elephant! Her name was Bulbul. She was 50 years old. There were at least 25 elephants there. As I was riding her up to the top of the Fort I thought about what we do for entertainment. These poor things, walking up and down the same path, day after day, for who knows how long.
Jaipur is also known as the Pink City. It was actually very beautiful. There are so many people though, and it is true; you really need to be able to look through the poverty and filth! There is garbage everywhere. If I truly told you what the streets looked like you would never believe me. It is quite a sight and one that is hard to get use to. I don’t quite understand how they seem to have no concern for the garbage. I know there is really no place to put it. Raw sewage and sanitation are big issues in rural India.
The traffic is unbelievable too! We saw an accident, two motorcycles, no one was hurt. Thank goodness. Its amazing, it seems like there are no rules, yet it is chaos in an orderly fashion. I can’t explain it.
Anyway, my experience in Jaipur put a bit of a damper on my tourist
experience. I was excited to visit there because it is known for its Gems, such as diamonds and such. My Mom wanted me to find a diamond for her, so I was so excited to be in such a place! Well, I pulled out the famous Lonely Planet book of India, found
what places might be the best to go to, and then asked our auto-rickshaw driver to take us there. I happened to mention that I was looking for some jewelry. Big mistake. He took us to the area that I requested, just took us to this one place. It wasn’t a store so to speak of, it was supposedly an exporter business.
Anyway we were taken into this back room surrounded by men. My gut didn’t feel right. I should have left right then, but I am too nice you know! Anyway, they bring out all these amazing diamonds and sapphires, they were beautiful, but they were way
to expensive and how the heck do I know if they were even real?
Anyway, I thanked them and said that they were too expensive and wanted to leave. They kept saying as we were leaving, we can give you a good deal. By that time I felt really uncomfortable and a bit scared I have to admit. Anyway we got out of there and headed for the market. Soon we noticed that a couple of guys were following us, so we tried to get away from them and we went to a palace for some tea. We were sitting in the dining room and two men show up and come over and sit down with us. They were very scary looking characters. I was really uncomfortable. Wendy and Rekha were trying to protect me by telling them to leave me alone and to go away, it didn’t work. It takes a bit for me to get upset but I was, and told them that they needed to leave right then and to leave us alone. They got up and walked out. I was shaking. When we left the palace, we went back to our hotel, it was flooding, we were in at least a foot of water. The auto rickshaw was having a hard time in the water, Then a red car pulled up beside us. It was
two different men and they said they wanted to take me back to the shop. I felt like I was in this unreal movie or something. I was really scared at that point, so were the girls. Of course we said no and for them to leave us alone, thank you, but I was not
interested in their product. They drove away and we ran into our hotel. I called John crying and I truly just wanted to come home.
I have to admit that my defenses are down a bit. Every where I turn someone is wanting something from me. Mostly money of course. You get to a point where it just exhausts you. I keep telling myself that they are just trying to support their families. I
really want to help them. I have bought more stuff than I know what to do with, truly. I will need another suitcase to get it all home. Its so hard to say no and I just keep thinking well, maybe I can help them a bit.
The next day we headed to Agra. We were hoping to take an air-conditioned bus but there were only two that went in a day and we missed them. So we took just a regular local bus. It was pouring, and the bus was so hot. It smelled really really bad, like puke and urine. Sorry, but it did! So all the windows were open. The rain was pouring in, both from the windows and from every joint on the bus. I had this spot that was leaking right above my head and I was sitting next to the window, so I put my rain coat on and wore it for 7 hours! I was still drenched by the time I got to Agra! Then we had bad roads they were flooded. So there were places that the bus hardly made it through. There were people lined up in the water cheering the bus through the rushing waters. All I could think of was that we would be floating down the river on our side.
I have to admit there was this excitement in the air that was catchy! Everyone was smiling, the rain had come. It was a blessing to them and their fields. So it was really hard to be all bent up about it when you knew it meant good fortune to the local people, although I have to admit it was a bit nauseating when you would see a dead cow or pig floating by.
I have to say that the bus ride was one I won’t easily forget. I was the only “white” person on it of course and every person that we drove by would wave and smile at me. It made my heart sing and I was humbled by the grace and joy that was so evident in every person we drove by. The children would run by the bus waving to me and smiling these beautiful smiles, so innocent and friendly. I am glad I had that experience. I can truly say that even though I was uncomfortable, it was a good place to be and my heart was changed.
Anyway, we got to Agra around 6:30 pm and little did we know that the Taj Mahal (which was the reason we had come) was closed at
7 pm and not open at all on Friday. That is why we had come. We were out of luck, that was a bit discouraging. Rekha, who has not seen the Taj Mahal, said “It is fate, that must mean I am to see it with the one I love someday. You too Joyce. You are only meant to see it with John”. So that put a new perspective on the whole picture. We enjoyed some shopping, bought more than I could carry and took a rickshaw all over the city. It was really fun! We even ate at a Pizza Hut, which I have to admit was really good.
The next morning we took the same rickshaw driver and asked him if he could show us the Taj Mahal from a distance. He actually took us to a wonderful place on the back side of the Taj with a lake view of it. It was amazingly beautiful. I rode a camel for a short distance and have some really fun pictures of me, the camel and the Taj Mahal! The family who owned the camel were pretty cool. Of course they kept trying to get more money out of me and along with them came 6 other people trying to sell their wares. Of course I bought something from all of them. The neat thing is that when I left they all were smiling and in a weird way it made me feel good that I could give them something and in return I got some pretty cool stuff, expensive I think, but oh
I feel this overwhelming awe of the strength of heart of the Indian people. There is an unbelievable amount of poverty everywhere you look. It is too hard to even share with you. I don’t think a person actually understands until they see it and then of course how can I understand? I don’t live it. It’s like this knife just stabs at your heart when you see a small child covered in filth and begging for food, and so many don’t beg. They just smile and greet you with this amazing joy.
One thing I will take with me forever is that the Indian people have this amazing faith. They believe so strongly in their gods. They are gracious beyond what I could ever imagine and they are so beautiful. They have this simplicity that radiates a joy that I don’t understand, a contentment that seems unimaginable.
As I look at the week, again, the sights were amazing, but it is the hearts that I see and feel and if I don’t look at the hearts, I’m afraid India would get the better of me.
The time I had in India was an experience that I will hold dear to my heart. My research enabled me to have access to the homes and the people. I will always be grateful for this experience. The sounds, smells, sights will be with me always. It is the people I will remember most; the children at the orphanage, the mothers I interviewed, my interpreter and her friend and their families, it is all these things that I will hold in my heart. The spirit of India and its people have captured my heart, and I will return.